Quebrada Blanca is not contaminating streams, company says

Friday, April 1, 2011

Vancouver-based Teck's (TSX, NYSE: TCK) Quebrada Blanca copper operation in Chile's northern region I is not contaminating streams in the surrounding area, a company spokesperson told BNamericas.

In March, a local environmental organization accused Quebrada Blanca of contaminating streams at the Blanca, Chajo and Maní ravines. The organization claims the pollution is being caused by acid water leaking from a tailings dam located near the ravines and asked environmental authorities to investigate.

"All our facilities include contingency and operational measures to prevent, for example, effects from weather conditions such as summer rains. These measures have always operated correctly, according to their design and in accordance with requirements and current laws," the spokesperson said in a written statement.

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Representatives of the health and mining ministries, national geology and mining service Sernageomin, and the local branch of national water authority DGA inspected the site and environmental authorities are now preparing a report that should be ready shortly.

Quebrada Blanca has been collaborating with the ongoing investigation, the spokesperson said, adding that the alleged source of contamination is a waste dump and not a tailings dam.

"The waste dump, as well as all the other facilities at the mine, has been operating normally and the company carries out regular inspections," the spokesperson said. "We carefully plan our work to make sure that potable water, air, and flora and fauna are protected. We are also committed to maintaining open and respectful relations with our neighboring communities."

In 2010, Quebrada Blanca turned out 86,200t of copper cathodes, down 1.4% from the previous year. Teck expects to complete a feasibility study for a project to produce copper concentrates at the operation in early 2012.

Teck owns 76.5% of Quebrada Blanca. Local miner Inversiones Mineras owns a 13.5% stake and state minerals company Enami holds the remainder.